Martinsville, Va. – When Donald Fitzgerald arrived in Bastian, Va. for rehabilitation nearly a year ago, he had no idea that two teams of caregivers and rehab specialists would join him on his journey home. Bland Nursing & Rehab and Mulberry Creek Nursing & Rehab, separated by more than 100 miles, both helped Fitzgerald achieve his dream of returning home to family.
On Friday, April 28 he reached his dream by going home.
He came to Bland Nursing & Rehab with several health care challenges. “Started out with gout, caught COVID and then pneumonia behind that,” Fitzgerald said. “Everything just kept going downhill, joints and stuff started messing with me and I couldn’t stand.”
When he arrived at Bland Nursing & Rehab, he was using a tracheotomy tube for breathing and a peg tube for feeding. Additionally, Fitzgerald was bed bound and experiencing high tone, a condition that causes an individual’s limbs and trunk to be very tight and rigid and is a challenging effect of a neurological injury.
Working with the rehabilitation and clinical team at Bland, he was able to reduce and eventually get off the ventilator. Then slowly he began standing and participating in activities of daily living. Eventually he was able to move to a modified diet with occasional use of the supplemental tube feeding.
“I enjoyed working on all the machines as long as they were making me stronger, I didn’t really turn down anything they offered that would help improve what I was doing,” Fitzgerald said. “I was willing to try anything but made the mistake while at Bland of saying ‘I can’t’ and got laid out by my wife so I don’t say I can’t anymore. I always say I’m willing to try. They picked with me up there about that.”
As soon as Fitzgerald was strong enough and able to, he elected to transfer to another Kissito Healthcare location, Mulberry Creek Nursing & Rehab in Martinsville, Va. His family lives close by, and he could benefit from their support.
After working with the team at Mulberry Creek, he was proud of his progress and wanted to share with his original team of caregivers at Bland. He asked his Mulberry team to help him use FaceTime to video conference with the Bland rehab team.
Both teams all gathered around the phone to watch Fitzgerald, who is no longer using a tracheostomy tube, no longer using a feeding tube, stand up and walk down the hall with a walker and stand by assist.
“When Johna, [the speech language pathologist (SLP) at Mulberry Creek] contacted me about setting up a FaceTime with Mr. Fitzgerald, we were elated to hear such great news. When he first left our care to transfer to our team at Mulberry Creek, we were confident his progress would continue,” said Andrew Johnson, SLP at Bland Nursing & Rehab. “Knowing his work ethic and the experience of their therapy team, his goals were more than obtainable. We received the opportunity that afternoon to witness his goals come to fruition. You can ask any therapist; these are the moments that make you show up every day.”
One such tool that has helped Fitzgerald return home so quickly is the OmniFlow program, which helped strengthen his lung function and improve his overall conditioning. OmniFlow is an interactive breathing system that gives residents a virtual environment to help respiratory training for several conditions including dysphagia, neurological conditions, and even acute or chronic pain.
Fitzgerald notes his overall experience with two Kissito Healthcare locations were great at Bland Nursing & Rehab and Mulberry Creek. “Staff at both places were great and work with you more to get that extra attention,” Fitzgerald said. “Mulberry Creek has a friendly atmosphere and I enjoyed being closer to home.”
He credits his success due to the two therapy teams that were patient, kind, and encouraging him daily. At Bland Nursing & Rehab his first progress was slower as he experienced aches and pains and was unable to stand. Thanks to the progress at Bland, once he arrived at Mulberry Creek everything fell in line and Fitzgerald was going home sooner than he expected which he thought might be as late as June.
Now, after more than a year Fitzgerald is home. Him and his wife, Lisa takes care of their grandchildren who are 16 and the other will be 15 soon. They are all excited to have him back home.
About Kissito Healthcare:
Kissito Healthcare (KHC), a Christian-based organization, operates eight skilled nursing, rehabilitation, long-term care, and assisted living centers in Virginia and North Carolina. KHC centers have been recognized by the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living for quality care. Our core values are “Integrity, Passion, Excellence, and Respect (IPER).”